Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese

We love macaroni and cheese but what we don’t love is what it does to our waistline.  I’ve got great news for you, I’m sharing a Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese recipe that is lighter in calories than traditional macaroni and cheese but still tastes delicious. 

Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese

Are you wondering how macaroni and cheese can be made to be both healthy and light?  The secret is a surprise ingredient, cauliflower.

Doesn’t this look delicious?  It is and I’ve served it to guests who couldn’t guess the surprise ingredient and absolutely loved this dish.

This macaroni and cheese tastes decadent but it healthy thanks to a surprise ingredient, cauliflower.

Why Cauliflower?

Cooked cauliflower, pureed into a delicious sauce along with chicken broth, Dijon mustard, and Gouda cheese give this mac and cheese great flavor.  Cauliflower makes this dish taste creamy without using any milk or cream to make it.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Runner’s World Magazine.  Each month a healthy recipe is featured, and I tweaked this one to get a mac and cheese that tastes sinful but isn’t.

This recipe is so tasty and I love that I’m getting nutrients from cauliflower while enjoying what tastes like decadent mac and cheese.


We enjoy an occasional meatless meal, and for this one I served Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese with sautéed fresh spinach and garlic.

Make a healthy and light version of macaroni and cheese. This version has no milk or cream yet has a creamy and delicious sauce thanks to a surprise ingredient, cauliflower.

Try Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese

This dish is great for a meatless meal along with other veggie sides or served as a traditional side dish.

Yield: 12 servings

Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese

Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese

Cauliflower, pureed into a delicious sauce along with chicken broth, Dijon mustard, and Gouda cheese, is the secret ingredient in this healthy version of classic macaroni and cheese.

Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cauliflower, cored and cut into large pieces
  • 16 oz macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups gouda cheese
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cups whole-grain bread crumbs


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Core cauliflower and cut into large chunks. Boil cauliflower for 25 min.

Heat chicken broth and bay leaves over low heat.

When cauliflower is finished, remove from water with a slotted spoon and put cauliflower into a food processor along with chicken broth, EVOO, cheese, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Add macaroni to boiling water and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and put into a greased 13x9 casserole dish.

Pour sauce over macaroni and stir to combine. Top with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 172Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 459mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 9g

How to Make Sautéed Spinach

Sautéed spinach is a quick and easy side dish to make.  Spinach is chocked full of nutrients and we like to eat it as often as possible.

Sautéed Fresh Spinach - This is an easy to make side dish that is chocked full of nutrients.

To make the spinach, heat a few tablespoons of EVOO in a stockpot (I used the one that I cooked the macaroni and cauliflower in so that I wouldn’t have to wash two pots).  Add chopped garlic and sauté  for a minute or two.  Add sliced, fresh spinach and toss with tongs until it wilts.  Season with salt to taste.

Pin It!

I would love for you to pin this recipe for others to discover on Pinterest.

Healthy and Light Macaroni and Cheese - This mac and cheese tastes great but is light thanks to a secret ingredient, cauliflower! Get the recipe at virginiasweetpea.com #macandcheese #reducedccaloriemacandcheese #lowcalorie #lowcaloriemacandcheese


  1. I was watching an episode of “Outrageous Food” on The Food Network and they had a mac ‘n cheese that was loaded with shrimp, lobster, crab meat, and steak.

    WHAT?!? I never think of mac ‘n cheese as having anything but mac ‘n cheese!

    That spinach looks to die for.

  2. Well I’ll skip the spinach thank you very much but the mac and cheese looks fabulous. Perfect for Shannon’s meatless Mondays!

  3. That looks delicious! Definitely want to try that recipe. Gotta love a good mac & cheese, and if it’s slightly healthy? yes please! Oh, and my parents have some same dishes! I’ve eaten so many family meals off those plates 🙂

  4. What a nice change from the same old macaroni and cheese! Thanks for the recipe, Paula!


  5. Thanks Paula! I love the sounds of both and I’ll try them soon. The cauliflower added in sounds tasty too.

  6. This looks YUMMY! I’ll totally try this. It’s always great when I can sneak in a veggie – for the kids AND me!

    I like Mark Bittman. He’s the one that made the Spaghetti with Fried Eggs I posted a few weeks ago.

  7. This looks really yummy! I am always looking for ways to “lighten up” some of my favorite comfort foods. I will definitely try this. Thanks!

  8. considering how high Mac N-Cheese is on my fav foods list – your title totally got me!!!!
    I NEED to try this!
    thanks for posting!!!

  9. YES on meatless meals. OMG – love the addition of cauliflower to the mac and cheese. Thank you for sharing!

    I make spinach like that and toss it with gnocchi for another fabulous meatless dish.

  10. I am definitely adding this to my list of “Meatless Monday” recipes to try. Looks yummy! Thanks for the shout out.

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